It was morning, but the heat was beating down on Caren Stevens, as she stood on a scaffold creating a mural.
It’s the kind of work she’s been doing for years.
As Caren painted, her sister and fellow artist Dannie Jean looked up, to examine their latest art project: A mural at E & W Carpets Inc. – a Land O’ Lakes landmark.
The colorful scene depicts a dock leading to a deep, blue ocean.
The work, which began just a week before, was approaching completion.
“The real creativity is taking our hands and putting what’s in the client’s mind on their wall,” Caren explained.
For nearly 30 years, the sisters have been part of a family owned business called Art Inherited.
The company was initially made up of Caren and Dannie Jean; their two other sisters, Carol and Melody; and their mother, Billie.
The concept for the name came from the ladies adopting their mother’s gift as an artist, as they grew up watching her create oil paintings and pottery.
Before they teamed up, Dannie Jean said, “all of us sisters were doing something in art, but we were all doing different things.”
Collaborating together, the family designed murals, as well as tile and graphic art, among other works.
The business gained recognition, but began to dwindle in size when Melody moved out of state, and both their sister, Carol, and mother, passed away.
But, Dannie Jean and Caren continue to put their gifts to use, remembering what their mother used to tell them: “In order to grow, art must be shared.”
The sisters began to shift their focus more on mural paintings and were hired to design artwork in model homes — which gave potential clients a chance to get a glimpse of what the artists had to offer.
Dannie Jean sketches what clients envision for their space and Caren brings the image to life through her colorful, crafted paintings.
So, what began with artwork in Sarasota model homes soon branched out to different areas of Tampa Bay.
Some of their clients have included the Northwest Community Church in Tampa; Larry’s Deli in Land O’ Lakes; and, the children’s emergency wing at the Medical Center of Trinity.
Former baseball player Mariano Rivera was a client, too.
Client requests range from nature scenes, to religious imagery, to paintings of animals.
The women have also developed an international reputation from work they’ve completed in the Bahamas and France.
Their artistry, Dannie Jean said, begins “with a God-given talent.”
“But, then it has to be nurtured,” she said.
“It’s fun,” she added, explaining “you get into the zone. It’s like reading a book – you’re just into it.”
Of the countless projects that Caren has worked on, her favorite was the interior of the Northwest Community Church.
She worked on the four-year project with her twin sister Carol, which made it special.
“It was so invigorating, so much fun,” Caren recalled. “That was one of my best memories that I had with my sister.”
Dannie Jean and Caren are at the helm of the company now, but occasionally they hire assistants for big assignments.
For this latest project, Caren has been working to give E & W’s bare wall a three-dimensional feel.
Aside from the company name and contact information, the painting includes two dogs at the front of a boardwalk, which is surrounded by palms trees and leads to a bay where a boat is docked.
It’s precisely what Chad Walter, the company owner, had envisioned.
“I saw something online that I liked,” Walter said. “It was the water scene.”
Walter said he wanted the mural to draw the attention of motorists as they traveled by — to attract business.
The building’s side wall faces drivers who are heading north on Land O’ Lakes Boulevard.
The new amenity also comes as E & W celebrates its 50th anniversary in business this year.
Kevin Barnes, who handles the company’s sales, said the painting has an advantage that social media ads don’t.
“What I like about it is, it’s concrete,” he said. “It’s going to be there forever.”
The sisters are no strangers to E & W. They’ve done work there before and plan to work there in the future.
While the sisters note that they’re imparting a lasting legacy through their art, they also realize they’re responding to the client’s vision and having an impact on those who view their work.
“I think it’s neat that we leave a little part of ourselves in so many places,” Dannie Jean said. “You don’t know who’s being touched by that.”
To find out more about the company, visit ArtInherited.com.
Published May 22, 2019